The European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights on Monday cautioned India against targeting religious minorities in the country, particularly Muslims. It urged the Narendra Modi government to meet its pledge to promote and protect human rights.

In a statement, Maria Arena, the chief of the panel, said that protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act have led to “arbitrary detentions and an unnecessary loss of life”. She said that journalists and peaceful critics were being arrested under “draconian counter-terrorism and sedition laws”, adding that the authorities were targeting human rights activists.

“Marginalised communities, religious minorities, particularly Muslims, a vocal and vibrant civil society and critics of government policies have been under increasing pressure for a long time,” her statement read.

Arena cited an Amnesty International India report and said that the Delhi Police had committed human rights violations during the February 2020 communal riots in the city, which left over 50 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands displaced.

“In the absence of action by India’s authorities since the outbreak of the violence, I strongly support the call for a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials. There should also be a fully independent, public and transparent inquiry into the role of the police in failing to prevent the violence that broke out and even aiding it.”

— European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights

Last month, over 200 eminent personalities had urged the government to release former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid and all those falsely implicated for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. A statement was released by pioneering linguist Noam Chomsky, leading American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler, scholar Homi K Bhabha, writers Arundhati Roy, Meena Kandasamy, Rajmohan Gandhi, Amitav Ghosh and Salman Rushdie, filmmaker Mira Nair, historian Irfan Habib, journalist P Sainath, and actor Ratna Pathak Shah, among many others. The signatories expressed concern at the arrests of democratic voices in India.

On September 23, Progressive International, a global organisation, had also condemned the government for targeting dissenters and protestors “known for their decades of social, political and democratic work” and charging them under anti-terror and national security laws in cases pertaining to the Delhi violence and the 2018 Bhima-Koregaon incident.

Amnesty closure

In her statement, Arena also expressed concern that human rights group Amnesty International India was forced to halt work in the country. On September 29, the organisation had accused the Centre of having frozen its bank accounts as punishment for speaking out about alleged rights abuses.

The move was widely criticised by various organisations. The United States, the United Kingdom as well as the European Union have also raised concerns about the government’s investigation into Amnesty International India. India has defended its decision, saying that other countries should not “condone contravention of Indian laws by any entity”.

The chief of the subcommittee reminded Indian government of its commitment to “continue to foster the genuine participation and effective involvement of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights.” She added that India should meet this pledge in a way that is worthy of the global role model the country wished to become.

“It is high time for India to translate words into action,” she said, requesting the European Union to address these concerns within the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue.